The biggest concerns regarding health in sheep and goats this time of year appear to be body condition as parturition approaches and concerns with lambing or kidding,” said Jodie Pennington, region small ruminant educator for Lincoln University Cooperative Extension in Newton County, Mo.
When it comes to monitoring health, Pennington suggested that body condition scores provide an indication of the energy status of sheep and goats, being largely an index of the amount of muscle and degree of fatness of the animals. One concern is that forage amount and quantity may be lacking, in part because of the drought.
According to Whitney Whitworth, associate professor of animal science at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, keeping animals on a good quality diet throughout the duration of the pregnancy will provide an optimal body condition during lambing and kidding seasons.
During fetal development, 70 percent of fetal growth occurs in the last third of gestation, Whitworth said. “Quality energy sources are extremely important due to the draw on the females. Ewes are more prone to pregnancy toxemia than most other species. This can be exacerbated by multiple fetuses, very common in sheep and goats.”
“Condition scores can be used for all ages of animals, although primarily they are used on the lactating animals to ensure that they do not get too skinny when they are milking or nursing,” Pennington said. 
Lactating animals that are too thin are more apt to have health problems and less likely to breed.  They also may not milk as well as they would in proper body condition. 
On the other hand, if the animals get too fat, they also may have other health problems, are usually poor breeders and may give less milk (as too fleshy may be an indication of low milk production), Pennington added.
“On a 5-point scale, animals getting ready for parturition should be 3.5 to 4.0,” Pennington said. “They then will lose weight to about 2.5 while nursing.  If the average body condition score is 2.0 while nursing, then supplemental feed is needed.  By breeding time, the animals should be back up to 3.0 or slightly above in body condition.”
In addition to keeping the doe or ewe in good health and condition, making sure that the animal has sources of energy, such as quality grains, to avoid toxemia and also make sure the offspring are as healthy as possible.
Regarding parturition, observation is the most important thing. “Watch your females every day for changes in behavior,” Whitworth said. “Also be prepared for lambing or kidding to come early.”
Regarding cold weather and winter conditions, it is essential to have all birthing materials handy before planned birthing has begun. “Heat lamps and fresh bedding should be on hand,” Whitworth said. “If not planning on kidding through a barn, at least having access to a barn for a warm place to stay dry.”
Some good tips provided by Pennington include:
• Monitor feed supplies to see if you need to be looking for feed.
• Test feed for quality and nutrient levels to make sure animals are getting adequate levels and amounts of everything.
• Provide a clean, dry (as possible) environment for your animals.      
• Make sure that you have adequate feed, water and a good mineral available to your animals at all times.
• Keep records of your animals this year so that you know how to improve your management for the next year.
• Monitor body condition of ewes and does to verify that they are in good condition for their stage of lactation or reproduction; supplement feed as needed.
For more information speak with your local veterinarian or extension animal science specialist.


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